“Numbers,” Larry June says over the phone to introduce himself. It’s 10:00 a.m. in San Francisco — the rapper’s hometown and where he’s calling from, and he’s drinking a green juice and eating a banana while we wait for Cardo to hop on the line. “Cardo got wings,” he answers with a British accent. It’s noon for the producer who’s calling from Dallas, and from the greeting alone it’s clear he’s full of jokes.
For a minute and a half, the rapper-producer duo chat like best friends who haven’t spoken in a while, bantering with each other about how they’re both feeling under the weather due to seasonal allergies. “I think I’m kind of getting better. Yesterday it was over for me though,” June says.
“Yesterday, same s–t!,” Cardo chimes in. “I’m just keeping my immune system in check, you know. Took my vitamins, my elderberry, chlorophyll in my water got me feeling real great, feel me? Word to my brother Larry, this guy is a Godd–n health and wealth enthusiast!” Both laugh.
Larry June, whose real name is Larry Eugene Hicks III, is known for his relaxed demeanor and hustler mentality. The San Francisco MC, who has a plethora of projects under his belt — including six releases from 2020 alone — was introduced to Whole Foods by his father early on, growing into a health and wellness enthusiast often rapping about drinking smoothies and going for jogs.
“I’m not going to say I’m just the lifetime health coach,” he told The Ringer earlier this year. “But I’m just a street n—a, helping healthy street n—-s, who trying to do numbers.”
Prior to meeting, June would get Cardo’s beats off of YouTube in the late 2000s. The Texas-via-Minnesota producer began producing in the early 2000s, but started taking it seriously in 2010 after earning placements with Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa. Since then, he has become known for hits like “THat Part” by ScHoolboy Q and Kanye West, “Goosebumps” by Travis Scott and “God’s Plan” by Drake.
As June started developing his sound, he found himself running in the same circle, and working with the same producers as his now right hand. Thanks to his and Cardo’s mutual friend and fellow producer Sledgren, the duo first worked together in 2015, and eventually met in-person when they ran into each other on Melrose Ave in L.A.
“We was all in the same circle and everything. It was bound to happen. [But] we would always miss each other some way, somehow,” explains Cardo. “I thought we was just ignoring each other, but h–l nah. We finally came to the conclusion like, ‘Hey, let’s do this d–n project man.’ [Laughs.] That was literally 2019.”
Last year, the two released their first two projects together. In January, Cardo delivered Game Related with June and longtime friend and Detroit rapper Payroll Giovanni, and in May, the two came together on Cruise USA. June also released his solo album Orange Print the following month.
Last Friday (Sept. 24), June and Cardo just dropped their third collab album, Into the Late Night. With a runtime of 22 minutes, the seven song project is laid back and feels like a continuation of 2020’s Cruise USA, “enough to keep your little playlist going, or whatever it is you’re doing,” as Cardo describes it.
Now, June and Cardo are on a winning streak and bringing the best out of each other along the way. And despite already having three collab albums in their arsenal, June asserts that they are just getting started.
“Cardo helped me create this new sound — you listen to any of my [older] tapes, I wasn’t coming like this,” says the 30-year-old. “Cardo sent me that groove, and it just brought something different out of me and I just ran with it. It only sound good on his beats. We just getting started, forreal.”
With Into the Late Night out now and June’s Orange Print Pollstar Tour on the horizon, Billboard spoke with the rapper-producer duo about their organic friendship, work ethic and shared love for health and wealth.
When did you two first meet?
Cardo: When did we first meet, Larry? That’s crazy.
Larry June: I’m thinking 2015 or something. We first worked [together] like in 2015, and then I think we finally met in person on Melrose.
Cardo: On God, he was on his bike!
Larry June: Yeah, I was on my bike. [Laughs.] Cardo: He looked at me, he was like, “Cardo?! N—a, what’s up?!” It was cool as s–t ’cause it was the first time we actually interacted with each other in-person. It was just one of those moments.
Larry, I know you had a stint where you were signed to Warner. When was this and can you tell me about that experience?
Larry June: I did two EPs with them in like 2017. I was with them for like a year, a year and a half or something, and then honestly as soon as I got out my [contract], I just started dropping mixtapes and then me and Cardo linked up. I’ve been independent since.
Would you ever consider signing with a major label again?
Larry June: I’m not really sure. Not right now. [Laughs.] I don’t think it’s really needed to have a crazy a– deal [considering] the technology we got these days. I don’t know, man, I can’t really… s–t might change. I got love for the labels, I learned a lot being with Warner Bros. Nothing against the labels, I just feel like for what I’m doing, and [what] me and Cardo doing, I don’t think we really need nothing crazy behind it, because it’s very organic.
You have an affinity for dropping projects pretty frequently. How has this worked for and against you?
Larry June: I look at the projects like crack — [the fans] need it. At the same time, we in a different era, we in the streaming era. As long as you streaming, you gon’ do numbers. I’m not really worried about going platinum everytime. I’m worried about having ownership of the project, and continuing to build and keep the numbers going. It’s a streaming game now. As long as I’m inspired to do it, I’ma keep doing it.
What are some major differences between Cruise USA and Into the Late Night in terms of how they were ideated and executed?
Cardo: I mean, s–t, we treat it as like a tradition. Me and Larry, we both love the same thing. We have the same interest in things: cars, money, health and wealth. I try to make sure, production-wise, I make sure to enhance it toward him so that way he can do what he do. Just to make sure that he’s staying innovative and creative, staying in his pocket on things too and not getting out of pocket.
One thing we don’t want to do is just lose our sound and try to do something different. We gon’ trust what we doing now and in the future as well. That’s how we treat this s–t. It’s like planting a palm tree, that s–t ain’t gone grow overnight. We want the sound to be a palm tree, if that makes any kind of sense.
Larry June: It’s like a staple with me and Cardo. When people know we dropping, they know what we finna come with. We can’t make “Mr. Midnight,” it’s already a classic. We can’t do Cruise USA again. [But] we gon’ give you that same sound. I’ma keep talking that s–t and Cardo will keep pressing them buttons, doing numbers. When you press play, you enter a different world. We don’t care what’s going on. We press play, you officially in your old school drinking a green juice, you know what I’m saying?
Cardo: On God! We put cars on every cover, because we going somewhere with it. That’s just the whole message behind it. It’s like motivational purposes too, it’s like we both uplift each other and try to figure out what we can do next. Not really trying — we know what to do, it’s just like, “What’s the time that we need to go in and do this?” Because we can’t just do it twice or three times in a year — because like we chewing on Juicy Fruit gum, you don’t want to lose that flavor.
Cardo, as a producer, how have you tailored your production style for Larry?
Cardo: It’s fun because we get to do creative things and sounds and whatnot. For Larry, we plan on doing — I don’t want to say “trap,” but we plan on going on that side of the world too, because we do that as well. But we want to just make sure what we doing right now, we lock that in. Then we’ll go ahead and expand.
Larry June: And the crazy thing about it, with Cardo, he always been doing this. Like, this always been Cardo’s sound. So he brought me into his world a little bit, and I brought my sound into his world. I used to get Cardo beats off YouTube and s–t before I even met [him]. [Laughs.] I been had Cardo beats, 2008 and s–t.
Do y’all ever bump heads in the studio?
Cardo: We never have. That’s the scary part. If we really got in the studio together and we locked in for like two weeks, we’ll have like three albums done.
Larry June: Three albums, fasho’. We never really got in the studio before.
Cardo: We never have! I’m just now noticing that.
Larry June: We just kick it and s–t. We never recorded together.
Cardo: We about to do this pop-up tour, this about to go so crazy — so probably while we do that, we’ll be able to get in the studio and actually get to working on his next project. Whatever it is that he wants to do, he know he has my full support no matter what.
That’s actually very interesting, that you’ve never been in the studio together. Is that because the circumstances with the pandemic?
Larry June: It’s a time thing. He in Dallas, I’m in San Francisco — [but] we just know how to do it. It just came easy to us [but] we just getting started.
Is there a reason why the projects only have a handful of songs?
Larry June: Too much crack, we don’t want no overdoses or nothing like that.
Cardo: People will get a full-fledged project in the future, but I feel like seven [songs] is enough to keep your little playlist going, or whatever it is you’re doing. Your little 20-minute, 30-minute workout or ride that you need to do to get your mind right. This is it, that’s all you need is 20 minutes to yourself.
Larry June: And I feel like all our tapes still kinda new.
Cardo: They really are. It’s like a triple-disc album lowkey, if you listen to all three of them.
Cardo, I know that you’ve been producing for almost two decades now.
Cardo: Oooh, I feel like a dinosaur. Facts, though. You know your s–t.
In general, what do you listen/look for when it comes to collaborating with new artists?
Cardo: Really it has to be something that just catches my ear, or something that my kids put me onto — because my kids are like little A&Rs. They’ll tell me something I have no clue about… they know what’s hot and what’s not. But usually I like working with everybody because making music is my job, but it’s also something that keeps me balanced and keeps my head straight too and make me not worry about anything else that’s going on around the world. S–t is kinda my peace too. So whenever I find something fresh and hard, I always try to reach out to work with somebody. It’s never a moment where I don’t.
I’ve been trying to make this a staple question in my interviews because I feel like there’s a lot of noise these days — but what sort of self-care acts do each of you implement in your lives to protect your energy and your peace?
Larry June: Taking jogs in the morning, driving, take trips with my son, new food. I like being outside.
Cardo: Yup, same s–t. I like to be outside, I be on my Peloton because it’s too hot in Texas to run outside or jog. And then you know, same with my kids. They do online school, so they kinda keep me balanced too, like they keep my energy in check with things. Their spirit reflects on me in a way, it’s like inspiring. My kids kinda give me colors [and] with colors I paint.
It’s kinda weird for us because we’re both fathers. Our means and everything else that we stand for is both alike, because we want to see the best for our children. So everything that we do, it ain’t for ourselves, it’s now for the kids, you know? So everyday we wake up, we thank the Man of course, get ourselves right, drink our green juice — because it does rejuvenate your soul, and in your spirit and everything around you.